For James Cunningham Sargent
on his 80th Birthday - February 26, 1996
by Felicity Blundon
You have always been there
Strong and reassuring.
A firm, warm handhold
When as a child in the dim past
We would go together, you and I
Following the rippling, rural road south
Into deep, sweet-smelling countryside.
And, there, while you at podium stood,
I was a quiet artist,
Crayoning colorbook masterpieces
In the back corner of the room.
conjures up images of rowing together
Across our glimmering lake.
Of a great white tent flapping
Or a still, blue
one at midnight in
As bears roamed about
And Daddy saved the day
With blaring horn and blinding headlight.
You rolled up your jeans
And gamely boarded a sinking craft.
An ambitious fisherman,
Drifting about a glacial lake
In a summer snowstorm.
I can see you there still, elf-like
In your red hooded sweatshirt
While your children lurked in the shadows
with pack horses
Anticipating freshly caught trout
Sizzling over camp fire.
I recall the slapping of waves
Against stone steps off the pier
And the light glinting off rosy palazzos
As we waited for our dear father.
And then all of a sudden,
We could see him,
Healing over the vaporetto gunnell
We were together again.
For a time and for ever.
And at nightfall that same July day,
We boarded a gondola
And guided by jaunty gondolier
Skimmed through a maze of canals
To the strains of guitar and harmonica
Resounding off steep, stone walls.
A moment frozen in time.
about taking tea with me in
But how to get there?
Perhaps we'll walk or hitch a ride.
Father, in boater hat and papillon,
Reclining 'neath hedgerow
Inhaling deeply of the English spring
While young Oxfordians
Hailed a ride.
Do you remember
The sudden madcap desire
To join the dance one night?
Off to The Plaza we then raced
Concealing cloaks in stairwell
Before parading grandly into The Grand Ballroom
Just in time for the midnight waltz
Such times, though distant,
are palpable and enduring.
But you are forever strong and tall,
In our hearts and minds -
A constant in our lives.
Your spirited way of life,
Your great vitality are
Theme and credo for us all,
Assembled here to honor you
And give thanks for this rich legacy
That is so dearly ours.
And for the myriad gifts
Our father has given us
Dona Nobis Pacem